About John Milton's Paradise Lost in English literature
John Milton’s Paradise Lost is by far one of the great epics in English literature. Paradise lost was written in the 17th century and was written to model Vergil’s and others epics written throughout history. Paradise Lost was written about the ultimate spiritual battle between good and evil, Milton’s purpose in writing this great epic was to justify God’s ways to humankind.
He wanted people to know that God’s always in control of everything, even when evil looks to be winning it’s only because God allowed it to happen. I chose to write about Paradise Lost because it is based off of the story of creation out of Genesis, but Milton put his own twist on it. Milton chose to tell what heaven was like before man was created and after they were created. He showed the spiritual battle between God, Satan, and the other fallen angels, but he also showed the spiritual battle between man and Satan.
Can the idea of Satan being a true hero be defended? I think that biblically Satan is not a hero by any definition, but he would be a tragic hero in Paradise Lost. Although Satan has some heroic qualities in Paradise Lost, Satan cannot be a true hero because he is the epitome of everything evil. All throughout the bible and history Satan is described as unclean, violent, and malicious. The dictionary defines Satan as a noun meaning- the chief evil spirit, tempter of mankind. (dictionary.com) In Revelation it says So the great dragon was thrown out-the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world.(Rev. 12:9) A similar line can also be found in Paradise Lost after Satan’s disobedience to God he was Hurled headlong flaming from th’ethereal sky.(Book I, Line 45).
Satan would be a tragic hero in Paradise Lost. Aristotle defines a tragic hero as a person who must evoke a sense of pity and fear in the audience. He is considered a man of misfortune that comes to him through error of judgment. (literarydevices.net) Satan has many characteristics of a tragic hero, some of which are hamartia, hubris, and nemesis to name a few. Hamartia is demonstrated when Satan is thrown from Heaven, he was Him the Almighty Power hurled headlong flaming from th’ethereal sky with hideous ruin and combustion down to bottomless perdition, there to dwell in adamantine chains and penal fire, who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.(Book I, line 45) Satan’s pride and disobedience to God is what got him and the other fallen angels he manipulated kicked out of Heaven. Satan said numerous times in Book I of Paradise Lost Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven. (Book I, Line 263) Other heroic qualities of Satan is the way he rally’s his legion of demons and motivates them to continuously rebel and try to take over Heaven. Since the beginning Satan has plotted against everything good and God. Satan’s his pride had him cast out from Heav’n with all his host of rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring to set himself in glory above his peers.’ (Book I, Line 36-37) Satan points out multiple times he has no intentions of serving God and that he can make his own Heaven out of Hell. In book I Satan gathers his legions and directs his speech, comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven. (Norton pg. 801) However once Satan learns about God creating man and how man would be special to Him, Satan plotted to destroy them.
Milton’s purpose in writing Paradise Lost was to justify God’s ways to man. In Paradise Lost, Milton showed what Satan intended for bad God turned and used for His good. Satan wanted to defile and destroy God’s creation. John wanted readers to know there are two paths man can take, continue to go down the path of disobedience or to take the path of redemption. God knew man would sin because he gave them free will. And man there placed, with purpose to assay if him by force he can destroy, or, worse, by some false guile pervert, and shall pervert. (Book III, Line 90 -92) In book III Milton wrote about God sitting in Heaven with The Son discussing the effects of Eve’s sin and how He could save men from eternal death. Behold me, then: me for him, life for life, I offer, on me let thine anger fall; account me Man: I for his sake will leave. (Book III, Lines 236238)
Milton was not anti-government, but instead encouraged people’s rights. In fact while Milton was traveling and he got word there was a possible civil war starting in England he immediately went back home. I thought it disgraceful while my fellow citizens fought for liberty at home, to be travelling for pleasure abroad. (Milton) After returning home Milton began writing a number of pamphlets where he supported ideals of the Puritan party and strongly opposed the corruptions of the church and state. After Charles I was executed Milton wrote another pamphlet Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. Milton was for electing government rulers and limiting their power through laws. It wasn’t until the monarchy was restored that Milton’s views on government were destroyed. Milton’s view of the monarchy was an epidemic madness and general defection of a misguided and abused multitude. (Milton)
Milton calls upon a Heavenly muse to tell his story. Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire. (Book I, line 5). Milton goes on to tell the muse he wants to create something that’s never been told before, Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. (Book I, line 16). Milton also wants to learn from the muse (the Holy Ghost), he wants to be enlightened where he lacks knowledge and build on strengths, so he can accurately tell what happened.
If God was not a character in Paradise Lost there wouldn’t be a purpose in writing the book, paradise wouldn’t exist. From a biblical standpoint God is the creator of everything, God created the Heavens and the Earth. (Genesis 1:1). So if God wasn’t a character Satan wouldn’t exist either since Satan is a fallen angel from Heaven. There would be no basis for Milton to even write Paradis Lost without God being a major character. Paradise Lost would be completely different because he wouldn’t have to justify God’s ways to man because man would not exist either. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
John Milton is considered one of the greats in English literature, he’s best known for his epic Paradise Lost. Milton was puritan who strongly believed the bibles authority, which is one of his reasoning’s for opposing the monarchy. John went on to write poetry, but also wrote many pamphlets opposing the Church of England and the monarchy.
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